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Home arrow Education arrow Field-Based Learning in Family Life Education: Facilitating High-Impact Experiences in Undergraduate Family Science Programs



This educational practice, teaching students how to observe and interpret behavior by applying concepts from their college course, can be used as part of most family science courses. All that is required is suitable locations to observe the phenomena being studied, whether it is a course in “Adult Development and Aging” or “Family Relationships.” Two main aims are accomplished by this form of field-based learning. First, observing and interpreting behavior is a foundational skill for almost any kind of work with families. Indeed, it is a way to turn the knowledge of our courses into the skilled practice of using that knowledge.

Second, learning to observe and interpret behavior brings to life the concepts we are teaching. In family science courses, we do not always have demonstrations available for our constructs, in the way a chemistry or physics course does, through their labs. But an assignment to go out and “capture” the phenomenon under study, through direct observation, provides just this concrete demonstration of our family science concepts.

For the instructor, one of the best parts of using observation as a learning experience is the excitement of the students, many of whom are astonished and thrilled to begin seeing the concepts they have been learning all around them. As if unveiled, their everyday worlds suddenly carry so much more meaning. In the words of the Italian proverb, “To him (or her) that watches, everything is revealed.”


Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.

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